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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Birth of a painting

I have been working the past month [seems like non-stop] on a painting. It started out as a fun idea and has turned into a logistical nightmare. [Yes, I have had nightmares about it.] I haven't posted much on my process of doing a painting, except to say that I do lots of layers when drawing and painting. Plus I always forget to take photos as I go along. This painting isn't typical of how I do a painting, but I encountered so many issues and learned so much that it might be fun to share.

#1 Planning. I start with an idea and many, many thumbnails of how I am going to lay it out. Usually I don't have to change much as I paint but often times things just don't work right. Or maybe nightmares cause me to add things that weren't in the plan. This idea started as a 'Where's Waldo' type of painted collage of old time actors and actresses. Originally I wanted a black and white painting with a light path through the middle and darker tones on the actors on the sides. The initial trial was deciding who to include, with so many great actors to choose from. I wanted black and white films at first, say 20's, 30's and 40's. This changed a bit. {nightmares]
#2 Background and initial lay out of painting. The nightmares began. It started with Henry Fonda. He demanded to know why he wasn't included. Wasn't 'Grapes of Wrath' a great movie, one on my favorites? Next night it was Vivian Leigh and Judy Garland, and they were furious. How could I leave out 'Gone With the Wind' and the 'Wizard of Oz'? So what if they were in color. That's when I quit sleeping and began to work on the painting 20 hours a day.

My plan to mix my own grays worked for round one, but my careless measuring and mixing caused my grays to morph into different colors. I kind of liked the color and decided I could work with that. I'm still just using 5 colors for the entire painting. White, alizarin crimson, thalo green, ultramarine blue and cadmium yellow.

#3 I moved some of the figures around and started adding some detail. The color added itself, and I let it happen at first. Portraits are very difficult and I knew this would be tough. But I had no idea how hard it would be to make someone easily recognizable. I knew who the actors were, so I thought they resembled themselves, but every-time I asked an opinion I was informed , "Nope doesn't even look like them." It seems like some of the figures got worse every time I would work on them. I changed Jimmy Steward into Cary Grant, until another nightmare made me add Jimmy back into another spot. My Paul Newman looked like James Dean so I added James Dean, re- dressed Newman and turned my old James Dean into Marlon Brando. More of the actors are becoming recognizable, but every-time I sit and look I find more mistakes. My eyes are tired from all the detail and working with such a little brush for the faces. I could stop, but I know that I won't. I do have a bad habit of over working a painting.

#4 I began to re-think The 'fun' part of this idea. It started out fun. Now I'm interchanging actors and they're keeping me up at night. My colors started to get too bright, so more layers toned that down, then I didn't like it again. Now I'm looking at the very beginning, and I kind of like the wider path and more black and white. Do I start again with new actors and no color? Do you like it in black and white, or does the limited pallet of color work?

My original idea included attaching movie reels and weaving film strips through the canvas. Do I have the nerve to cut this now that I have so much time into it? Well I went and did it. I think that it messed it up, I put the film strip in the wrong place, it looked so much better in my imagination, then actually doing it. I think I may take out the bottom 2 film strips in the middle, so it doesn't frame it so much. So what do you think? Honestly, now. Be critical. How do I improve it? My next painting will be simple, very loose and I'm going to only use very big brushes.

I still think this will be fun for for the viewers. I can only hope for great crowds surrounding this painting trying to guess all the actors. No, I'm not going to include a key. You can figure out who's who. [All right, If you get stuck you can ask] I did have fun painting this. I think I will try an old rock and roll musicians one next, 50's, 60's, 70's. The nightmares could be very interesting.

[And yes, I already forgot that I said my next painting would be simple and very loose.]


Marlene said...

Sue this sounds like it would be so much fun to explore, unfortunately dear none of the picture links are working (sad face). It must be a very involved painting to make you have nightmares.

Paper Moon Delights said...

Can't see the photos either????

artistsuetaylor said...

Are the photos there now?

Lee said...

Wow! What an ambitious project Sue!
I kinda like the film and reels too.
Charlie Chaplin, Marx Bros, Laurel and Hardy, Liz Taylor, Marlon Brando, Audrey Hepburn and on and on. There are a few I'm not sure of but it's really fun to go through and identify the actors and roles.
So is it Fred Astaire?

Marlene said...

Love it Sue - I see John Wayne, Liz Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and what Lee said.
Fun picture and I like the film reels also. This would look great in my theater room if I ever get one.

artistsuetaylor said...

Thank you for your comments. There are some that won't be easily identifiable, like Errol Flynn, [should have put a Robin Hood hat on him] Lilian Gish, Rudolph Valentino or jean Harlow.